South Africa v India, 2nd ODI, Johannesburg January 16, 2011

We weren't smart enough - Smith


When Graeme Smith was "done by a good slower ball" with the score on 152 for 5, there was a sense that the domino effect and South Africa's batting line-up were on a collision course. South Africa only needed 39 runs to win, and with five wickets in hand it should have been a doddle, but they tripped over their long tail and gave Wanderers it's most thrilling finish since the 438 game.

At the post-match press conference, no one wanted to ask Smith the obvious question because the answer was there on his face for all to see. Smith looked a downcast, disappointed and, in some ways, quietly angry man. There were no excuses. There was no arrogance, and no sense that he was feeling hard done by, despite Johan Botha having been given lbw when the ball hit only bat at a crucial stage of the game. There was just an empty, expressionless man who was clearly unhappy with the world.

"We weren't smart enough, especially with the bat," Smith said. South Africa allowed India to defend the second-lowest total at Wanderers, after the hosts had reached a position from where they could have won with at least ten overs to spare. They had no business losing, with Smith's 77 setting them up and the chance to go 2-0 up in the series presented to them on a platter.

The pitch, traditionally loaded with runs, was not vastly different to those of the past. The moisture may have made it slightly more difficult for batting, but it wasn't a snake pit, and Smith admitted that his batsmen needed to show more commitment. "I don't think it was a free flowing wicket, it was not easy to play your shots, you had to work hard out there. It required a solid performance."

Smith was the master of solidity, punishing the bad balls and setting a brisk pace. There were periods when it looked like both Colin Ingram and JP Duminy would able to hang around with him. Without Jacques Kallis and the experience he offers, one of the two had to play a more mature role. Ingram eventually fell to Harbhajan, and there was little he could do about that, but Duminy was criminal in going for the big heave-ho and getting caught on the long-on boundary for 13. Smith didn't name and shame but he may well have been referring to that moment when he said, "We needed to be a bit more solid, instead of searching for those glory shots."

David Miller, whose position has also been under scrutiny, showed his ability to hit those glory shots with three fours and stunning six straight down the ground. Although he didn't go out to a big shot, he wasn't balanced enough while pulling Zaheer Khan. Perhaps Smith's statement also made reference to that.

It would be cruel to think the captain was talking about Wayne Parnell, who played a cut straight to point with two runs and ample time left to win. Parnell's heartache was evident as he bit his helmet strap and stood statue like for what seemed like hours after he was dismissed. He should have had more trust in Lonwabo Tsotsobe, King Midas on the night, who surely would have turned his bat to gold as well, and taken a single to let the game reach its obvious conclusion. Parnell may still be too young and inexperienced to have thought of all of that, and that's why South Africa have to find someone with a bit more game time under his belt to carry such responsibilities.

Smith thought he should have led his team to the finish. "If I could have batted through, it would have been wonderful. I don't think I gave my wicket away though and we still should have got over the line."

Albie Morkel's name will be bandied about, probably before Faf du Plessis', as the allrounder with experience to come in and carry the load. For Smith, it's not player replacement that is needed, but rather thought replacement. "We have to pick ourselves up. We haven't become bad players because of one performance. We'll have to work on our decision making."

While they do that, they'll also have to buy earplugs to avoid hearing the one word that will hurt the most, particularly before a World Cup. Smith was lucky he didn't hear it during the post-match presser. Uttering the ch-word here is close to committing treason. Most were thinking it, though, even India's captain MS Dhoni. "It's one thing that will always follow them whether the opposition says it or not, like India and our record in tri-series finals. It's one thing that will haunt them and you can't really run away from it."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Manesh on January 19, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    @spelele thanks for the predictions. lol

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2011, 3:59 GMT

    India is is playing wonderful cricket and show why they are the favourites to win the world cup. SA on the other hand can't seem to advance their position when they have the upper hand. Like today they allow the opportunity to slip through their fingers.

  • Dummy4 on January 18, 2011, 10:31 GMT

    Congratulations to team India for fetching a great win that seemed impossible. For South Africa, I think they bowled very well to limit India to only 190. They had every chance to win it, but they threw it away as they have often done. That is why they have not done well in any big event of ICC and have not won World Cup so far though they have deserved it for many years now.

  • John on January 18, 2011, 2:34 GMT

    This is the reason SA are not favored to win the World Cup. They probably have the most talented line-up, player for player, in the world, but time after time they lose matches they should have won. They simply don't seem to have the discipline to play as they should with the game on the line. Smith has been captain a long time and things have got no better under him. I'd relieve him of the captaincy and look for a captain with better leadership skills.

  • Dummy4 on January 17, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    South Africa threw this match away - was highly disappointing to see us throwing wickets away, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Well done to India for never giving up, but SA should really have won this game at a canter.

  • ntokozo on January 17, 2011, 8:36 GMT

    Nice 2 c India "bounce back". I cud drop the inverted commas, but I just can't believe that SA could lose after getting to that position. I guess its a strategy. Get this no-good Indian "C-grade" team to think they can win & then thrash them by 4 - 1. Very smart, although Smith doesnt agree. On another note, this gives S.A ample time to sort out their batting woes before the WC. They've just been too over-reliant on Amla's cracking starts this season. And Smith: nice to see that he is back in form bcoz I've just thought that he's been too eager to score at the same rate, or even outscore Hashim, which was really unnecessary. When Hash is going so well at the other end, all he has to do is play the bowling from the non-striker's end. He should really be cashing in while Hash is in form and not getting out to silly shots. Good 2 see S.A not going 2 an ICC championship as the serious favourites. As 4 the nxt game, well, India without Tendulkar? I predict a 4 - 1 thrashing from now on.

  • Anirudha on January 17, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    i was amazed by some of the comments below....we played better than test and as well in ODI...they can't even scored 191...why don't we give credit to team IND??

  • Dummy4 on January 17, 2011, 6:09 GMT

    @Chirag: the "ch - word" is choke..

  • Fadzai on January 17, 2011, 5:10 GMT

    India should not get over themselves with this victory. Yes you won but you were merely lucky. All the best to the Proteas in the remaininig matches. Trounce India!!!!

  • SHAMEEM on January 17, 2011, 2:04 GMT

    I think India was lucky to win. Probabley this is the only match India would register a Victory. The rest of the matches in the series are likely to loose.

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